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Five Days in January

Mar 2000

In prior columns I have usually focused on specific programs of the Association, which have provided a unifying theme. This month I want to tell you of five recent events in the Meeting Hall that have no single common thread but graphically demonstrate the extraordinary sweep and variety of the Association¡¦s interests, concerns and activities¡Xfive events that were held in the short span of 17 days.

The first was Twelfth Night, the Association¡¦s biennial satiric musical tribute to a notable legal figure. We shed our everyday lawyerly seriousness and are amused by the gentle and not-so-gentle barbs and wit of a cast assembled by the Committee on Entertainment. This year, for the first time, the ¡§target¡¨ was a United States Supreme Court Justice: Antonin Scalia, who was born and raised in New York City. The selection of Justice Scalia presented a challenge to his (and my) law school classmate, Mike Cohen, who has been writing the Twelfth Night show for more than 30 years. Mike was more than equal to the task, judging by the boisterous laughter of the audience, who crammed the Meeting Hall. No one laughed louder than Justice Scalia. His ¡§defense counsel,¡¨ known as the Master of Revels, was his good friend and former colleague on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Laurence Silberman. Twelfth Night is our biennial proof of how right Harrison Tweed was when he said that lawyers are ¡§better to work with or play with or fight with or drink with than most other varieties of mankind.¡¨

The second and third events were the Orison S. Marden and the Cardozo Lectures, held less than a week apart. It is not widely known that Orison Marden was President not only of this Association, but of the New York State and American Bar Associations, an unprecedented ¡§trifecta¡¨ in the legal profession. The initial Marden Lecture was delivered in 1978 by then Associate Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; the 13th was delivered on January 13 by Senior (and former Chief) Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Judge Weinstein, who has taught law and been a judge for nearly 50 years, is legendary for his compassion for individuals who lack access to the courts, his condemnation of the straitjacket imposed on district judges by the federal sentencing guidelines and his creativity in devising procedures for the effective management of mass tort litigation. He ranged over these subjects and others in his memorable lecture, Adjudicative Justice in a Diverse Mass Society (wich will be printed in the March/April edition of The Record).

A short six days later, Anthony Lewis, author (Gideon¡¦s Trumpet, Portrait of a Decade and Make No Law) and longtime New York Times reporter and columnist, delivered the 52nd Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture (see opposite page). All of the previous lecturers have been lawyers, law professors and judges. Anthony Lewis¡¦s lecture was eloquent proof that a law degree is not a prerequisite of wisdom and insight concerning legal institutions, constitutional rights and the threats they continually face. The courts and the rule of law have no more ardent and eloquent champion than Anthony Lewis. I urge you all to read his lecture, Why the Courts?, which will appear in the March-April issue of The Record. I predict that his defense of judicial integrity and independence will be read and cited for many years to come.

If the three events I have described so far were memorable, the fourth was not only memorable but truly historic. On Friday, January 21, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations convened a committee hearing in the Great Hall on United States relations with the United Nations (see page 5). This was the first congressional committee hearing held at the Association in its 130-year history and the first time the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has convened in New York City. The atmosphere was tense due to Senator Helms¡¦s blunt, and some thought hostile, speech to the United Nations General Assembly the preceding day. Several Ambassadors to the United Nations and other foreign diplomats were in the audience, and the witnesses at the hearing, which was televised by C-Span, included United States Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and U.N. Undersecretary for Administration Joseph Connor. In view of the Association¡¦s deep interest in international affairs, it seemed singularly appropriate that a congressional committee and the United Nations should agree upon the Association Meeting Hall as a suitable site for their historic gathering.

The final event in this remarkable series, held on January 24, was a conference on mentoring, sponsored by our Association, the New York Women's Bar Association and the New York Women's Bar Association Foundation, and attended by nearly 300 representatives of law firms and other legal employers, law school career service directors and career development counselors. The conference, entitled Growing and Keeping Talented Lawyers: New Directions in Mentoring, addressed issues of associate recruitment, training, development and retention, with a specific focus on mentoring as a way of overcoming the sense of isolation and other obstacles to job satisfaction encountered by young lawyers, particularly women and minorities. Anyone at all familiar with the legal profession knows that enhancing the quality of life is one of the most critical challenges facing the profession. These challenges are of paramount concern to the Association and are being studied by a Special Committee that plans to issue a report this Spring addressing the causes of, and possible solutions to, the professional and personal dissatisfaction that too many lawyers feel today.

I can think of no other organization that could have been host to these five extraordinary events in so short a span of time. They attest dramatically to the vibrancy and multiplicity of this Association¡¦s activities and the universality of its concerns.

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